The Kharga Oasis (Al Kharja, Oasis of Hib, Oasis of Psoi) is the southernmost of Egypt’s five western oases. Kharga or El Kharga is also the name of a major town located in the oasis, the capital of New Valley Governorate. The oasis, known as the Southern Oasis in Ancient Egypt and Oasis Magna to the Romans, is the largest oases in Egypt’s Libyan desert. Geographically, Kharga comprises a depression about 160 km (100 miles) long and from 20 km (12 miles) to 80 km (50 miles) wide. Its population is 67,700 (2012).
Location of Kharga Oasis
Kharga Oasis is located in the Western Desert, about 200 km (125 miles) to the west of the Nile River, New Valley governorate.
The Kharga Oasis is located 232 kilometres south of Asyut and 550 kilometres south of Cairo. The oasis is located to the west of the Nile valley. Al Menya, Asyut, Sohag, and Qena, occupy the eastern border of the governorate. In contrast, the Matruh governorate occupies its northern borders, and the border with Libya is located on the western edge of Al Wadi Al Gadeed governorate.
Kharga is the most modernised of Egypt’s western oases. The main town is highly functional with all modern facilities and virtually nothing left of old architecture. Although framed by the oasis, there is no oasis feeling, unlike all other oases in this part of Egypt. There is extensive thorn palm, acacia, buffalo thorn and jujube growth in the oasis surrounding the modern town of Kharga. Many remnant wildlife species inhabit this region.
The Oasis was known as the southern Oasis by the ancient Egyptians and the Oasis Magna to the Romans, who are the largest oases in the Libyan desert of Egypt. The Oasis is in depression about 160 km (100 mi) long and from 20 km (12 mi) to 80 km (50 mi) wide. The climate is 28°C, Wind N at 8 km/h, and Humidity at 23%.
History of Kharga Oasis
The history of the Kharga Oasis was an important transit point for desert caravans going back to the period of the 12th dynasty (1786 BC – 1665 B.C.) This was a transition period in Egyptian history when the Hyksos had control over northern Egypt, and the Pharaohs ruled over southern Egypt and Nubia. It served as the southwestern gate of Egypt because it was able to connect Egypt to southern Africa.
The Kharga Oasis flourished during the 13th dynasty and was used as a stronghold to protect the Egyptian Christians from Roman rule’s authoritarian rule.
Several huge buildings, passageways, artefacts, and ruins were discovered in the oasis, dating back to the middle kingdom (2134 -1569 BC) to the New Kingdom (1550-1050 BC). The famous dagger of King Tutankhamun was made from an Iron Meteorite located in the Kharga Oasis.
During the third and Forth centuries A.D., many Egyptian Christians fled to Kharga Oasis and the surrounding area to escape from the unjust Romans. The latter persecuted the Copts of Egypt because of their Christian beliefs. The Copts lived in peace in the Kharga Oasis and left remarkable monuments such as the cemetery of Bagawat.
Attractions in El Kharga Oasis
Temple of Hibis
The Temple of Hibis is located approximately one kilometre to the north of El Kharga Oasis. This temple is of significant importance as it represents different vital stages of Egyptian history.
The temple was built to worship the holy triad (Amun- Mut- Khonsu). The construction work started under the rule of Iris and then Ahmos II. However, most of the construction works were completed during the Persian or the Hyksos occupation of Egypt, specifically during the reign of Darius I (522 BC).
The Cemetery of Bagawat is located three kilometres north of Kharga behind the Temple of Hibis. This cemetery got its name from its style of architecture, as most of the tombs there were constructed in the form of domes or “Qubwat” in Arabic, which transformed afterwards into Bagawat. This cemetery has one of the most important ancient Christian churches worldwide.
The most important tomb in the cemetery is the tomb of Exodus, which represents the Israelis going out of Egypt and the Pharaohs forcing them out of the country. The tomb of “peace” also contains the reliefs of Jacob, the Virgin Mary, Saint Paul, and Saint Takla. Other tombs display many colourful Coptic inscriptions and writings that demonstrate Coptic life during this period.
Temple of Ghweita
The Temple of Ghweita or Qaser Ghweita, the fortress of deep springs, is located 25 kilometres south of Kharga. The construction work of this temple started in the reign of Darius I on the top of a hill that was initially the ruins of a Pharaonic settlement. The temple was built to worship the holy triad (Amun- Mut- Khonsu), the same as the temple of Hibis. Together with the Temple of Hibis, this temple is the only temple built in Egypt during the Persian or Hyksos occupation.
Temple of Qaser Al Zayyan
The temple of Qaser Al Zayyan was dedicated to the cult of Amun Ra of Hibis. This temple was constructed during the Ptolemaic reign and enlarged during the period of the Roman emperor Pius in the 2nd century A.D. It contains a sanctuary made of white limestone blocks and many mud-brick side chambers.
Temple of Dush in Paris Oasis
This area corresponds to the Ptolemaic and Roman settlement of Kysis, located near the oasis of Paris. It is 120 kilometres south of Al Kharga. There are two Roman fortresses at it and two temples. This site had significant importance in the old world as it granted the control of several caravan routes in the Roman and Ptolemaic times.
Museum of Antiquities of El Kharga Oasis
The museum of El Kharga Oasis hosts many items found all over the archaeological sites of the New Valley governorate. This collection includes a statue of Horus, some Pharaonic reliefs, and a collection of Coptic pottery. The museum is open daily from 09:00 until 03:00 pm.
The climate of Kharga Oasis
The Köppen-Geiger, climate classification system classifies its climate as a hot desert (BWh). Thus, Kharga Oasis experiences extreme summers with no precipitation and warm winters with cool nights for most of the year.